Found Guilty of Murder
In the late 60s, the fates of two young white ambitious women destined to never meet were forever entangled with each other, in an unravelling, tragic turn of events that echoes even today, in articles, podcasts, documentaries. A legacy they didn’t ask for.
Mary Shotwell Little.
The first woman, Mary Shotwell Little disappeared on the 14th of October 1962. Her husband Roy Little is out on a work trip 70 miles south. She finishes her workday and drives up to Lennox Square, for some grocery shopping and has dinner with a work friend at the Cafe Piccadilly at the mall. Her friend reports nothing unusual with Mary, she was her usual self when she bid her goodnight. ‘See you’ says Mary casually to her and that is the last we hear of Ms. Little, firsthand at least. The last timestamp of someone seeing Mary going towards her car is 8 PM.
The following morning (October 15th 1962), Mary didn’t show up for work. She was a Secretary of Citizens & Southern (C&S) Bank, a reputed bank at the time in Atlanta. Confused at this uncharacteristic behavior, her boss Gene Rackley is informed that she was last seen at Lennox Square. Upon calling the mall and enquiring if her car is still in the parking lot; the security guards tell him it’s not there. The office decides to wait it out albeit not at all feeling good about it.
Mary’s 1965 Mercury Comet.
Around noon, Rackely drives up to Lennox Square and finds the 1965 Mercury Comet that is unmistakably Mary’s car! Immediately he calls up the Police. Why did the security guards say it wasn’t there? Upon investigation; they found another patrolling officer giving a statement that confirmed around 6 AM that the car was indeed not at the parking lot. Furthermore, the car exterior had a thin coat of red dust; as if it had been driven on a dirt road at high speeds. The car had left the premises and been moved back. But why? Why go through the trouble of placing the car back into the spotlight?
Police searching for clues inside Mary’s car.
Now let’s get into the clues inside the car: they found her three bags of groceries from the night before, some coke bottles (heyo! Coke still manages to find its way in a crime story, #branding) and Kent cigarettes; Mary’s preferred choice. They also found a women’s underwear, slip and girdle neatly folder in the middle of the console between the two front seats. On the floor of the car; her bra and stockings were found; her stockings looked like they had been cut up with a knife. The clothes were confirmed to be Mary’s, her underwear speckled with blood. Blood was also smeared on: the driver’s seat handle and passenger’s seat window. So this sounds very severe and gruesome but the plot thickens when the officers say there’s actually very little blood. So little that it’s been smearing to look worse than it is and can’t be worse than a nose bleed. Since I hadn’t heard of concrete spermatozoa samples; I’m also unsure if there was sexual violence taken place at the scene. Again, why go through the trouble to place the car here – in broad daylight. To me, that action screams meticulous killer or terrified accidental predator, but perhaps it’s too early to tell.
So Roy Little, the husband – is notified of this; and when he returns immediately – he tells the Police he’s been keeping detailed mileage records of the car; and it seems there are around 41 miles that’s been unaccounted for (see; this is what reduces my doubts of the husband; which is almost always the first suspect, but more on that later). A month into the investigation they found more clues.
Mary’s gasoline credit card had been used twice on Oct 15 and signed by ‘a woman’ as “Mrs. Roy H. Little Jr.” One, early morning in Charlotte (which is Mary’s hometown) and the other in Raleigh about – wait for it – 12 hours later. It should be noted that naturally, the trip between the towns Raleigh and Charlotte is 3 hours, max. Does it get any more shadier than this? The answer is yes. The gas attendants in both places confirm that a lady was in the car with a cut on the head, she was trying to cover her face with a road map. There was a man barking orders at her in the first ride, and two men with her barking orders in the second.
Let’s try to math this out for a second – (I haven’t mathed (not a real word🙄) in a while, as you can see it is now a verb for me, I don’t associate with it much but nonetheless). If she was last seen at 8 PM, the early morning checkout at the gas station is consistent. Let’s say this early morning can be any time between 12 – 6 AM, definitely not at the Mall. But 12 hours after that? The car was at Lennox Square again. How can it be in Raleigh? Even if it did check out (it checks out if it’s at max 1 AM and then they reach the Mall by 1 PM and the boss who just happened to wait it out till noon to visit – too tight right? The schedule is way too tight! A very astute Redditor (source no.4) claims this was a ploy, bait that the police, unfortunately, took to – and said the Redditor further pads his claim with the startling accuracy of the gas attendant. Would someone in retail or customer service remember this much detail 2 weeks after the event took place?
Mary was not in great spirits: Investigators found out that weeks before her disappearance; her work friends heard strange phone calls from Mary. The most well-recorded ones were: “I’m a married woman now” and “You can come over to my house any time you like, but I can’t come over there.” She had also received a dozen roses from an anonymous admirer; a detail that becomes sinister once we touch upon Diane.
Other areas of concern (but of which I consider are minor) was that Roy received a threatening ransom call to hand over $20,000 for Mary’s return but it didn’t fall through when the investigators arrived at the scene; there was just a blank piece of paper and a sign. The caller stopped any further contact.
This is where I’m going to stop with Mary’s case and jump straight into Diane’s, because as I mentioned earlier these women’s fates are intertwined and where one’s trail ends – the other gets picked up. What they both have in common was the job. Diane took the role of Secretary that Mary held just weeks after she disappeared.
Diane Shields. Wasn’t she beautiful?
Diane was 22 and was also from a small town in Alabama. She moved to Atlanta in the hopes of a better career and better life. She was reported to be very beautiful and have a tough, talk straight personality. She was interested in the Mary Little case which make sense; others might have felt queasy taking on a position of someone who had such a creepy fate. She was known to go out on her own for a long period and not explain herself. There were accounts from her mechanic and co-worker that she talked about Mary a lot and wanted to actively help with the investigation.
In early 1966, she moved out of her single apartment with her bank friends although she was reported to barely go home – she was in a serious relationship with one Tom Antle; who soon would be her fiance. In October 1966, a year after the disappearance Shields abruptly decided to quit the bank and start a new role at the Associated Industries of Georgia, and on Oct 26th, guess who receives 5 roses anonymously at her workplace? Sinister, so very sinister.
Diane; being fully invested in Mary’s case, understood the significance of the roses. She was visibly shaken and reluctantly notified the police. They found the culprit to be a former C&S employee who was fired upon some ‘remarks’ made at “the girls” in the office. Are you rolling your eyes, because I am. When asked why he did it; he responded that he was thinking about her… and guess what? That’s all we hear about that thread! Which doesn’t make sense because it’s an actual link between the two women – but not in the eyes of the Police. Things only get worse from here, readers. Brace yourselves.
In May 1967, 7 months after the job change and an apartment change – she moved in with her older sister. Diane was coming off work (her boss later confirmed it was around 5 PM as he had to leave and meet his wife for dinner around that time) and set to meet Tommy the fiance for a date but never showed up. Sandra was already at home and Tommy called for her around 6 PM, 7 PM and 8 PM – constantly being told she had not come home yet. Around 8:30 he went by the office and couldn’t find her car. Worried, he went to the police but was informed he needed to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report. Turned out he didn’t have to.
At 2:30 AM, two patrolling officers find her car by East Point Cleaners and Laundry, a laundromat. Upon further inspection of a leak, they find that it’s dried blood. They open the trunk to find it completely stuffed: cardboard boxes, a spare tyre and wedged between them a folded, beaten and strangled Diane Shields in her car.
This was where Diane was found.
There were no signs of sexual violence but a very heavy beating – her face was unrecognizable; her fiance and sister confirming her identity based on her clothing and engagement ring. She had no shoes, and since her ring was still on her – this was not motivated by money or sex; that left only revenge.
Eery sightings are being recorded; at 1:30 AM a source had reported seeing Diane talking with an ex-roommate and co-worker at a food joint. However; this can be challenged as the police officer notes the radiator being cold when they find her at 2:30 AM and upon checking her body temperature that she had been dead 4 hours earlier.
Another more troubling sighting was around 7:30-8:30 PM a man named Jack Mullinax stated he saw two men in this car. A month later in June, Mullinax reports the same men who came had been following him and a few hours later gets him in the car, holds him at gunpoint and shoots him. Again days later; Mullinax recants his story and says he shoots himself due to debt. I’ll be honest; at first, this sounds like a hot piece of information; but then I reminded myself – this was always a big case, and the killer or killers are not to be underestimated. As easy as it is to believe that Mullinax did come face to face with the killer; we should also remember that these killers couldn’t just as easily closed this pathway, and so Mullinax could very well be just trying to have his 15 minutes of fame.
All in all, that is all to be found of the case of Diane and Mary; but here is where I shall state my points of interests. There are only three. Mary’s friend, The Bank & the Mafia. Yes, I said mafia.
What I mean by this is the predator or one of the predators had to be someone Mary was familiar with. ‘You can come over anytime, but I can’t come over there” What does that mean, really? Why was the blood splatter so little; and deliberate? There was no sexual abuse. Could it be that it was someone Mary knew and wanted to escape with? An admirer perhaps? Why would they go to her hometown? This is the softest theory so far because at least it implies that maybe Mary had some power in the situation and took an opportunity to leave off the face of the earth, but I know I can’t be this naive.
The Bank 🏦
To give off some context, in the 1960s, C&S was a reputed bank. Atlanta was flourishing if Lennox Square was any indication. A lot of money, deals and proposals were being sent by way of this bank; and in a podcast series about this case; former Detective John says you can’t ignore the political and financial layer of this story. They had so many people in common after all. This also brings me back to the husband, remember how I said I’m convinced he wasn’t involved?
Sure, he’s not got a completely clean record; as Mary’s friends have reported as to not like him, some refusing to go to their wedding – he refused to take a polygraph test and has been known (from investigators that recall the case) to be a bit of a hard-ass, someone whose a bit controlling. (however, the investigator also mentioned in the same breath that perhaps she was compatible with that sort of man). Sure this guy may care a bit too much about cars, and seems shady but to hand over these mileage records was a big plus for the investigation in my opinion. If I had to pin it on the husband, I would have to pin it on his work – he was training to be an auditor and perhaps there’s some substance to his husband angle this way.
A strange one, I understand but former Detective John also comments that Diane’s death was very much like a mob hit: the trunk; the brutal beating as a warning, no sexual contact. Since Mary’s case also obviously involved a group of people; who were meticulous, you can’t ignore the signs.
Diane Shields, to me, was a capable, determined and clever woman caught in a very dangerous web of affairs, an unfortunate fate. It could’ve been any other determined and capable woman but in 1967 Atlanta, it had to be her; and it’s still tragic. Upon investigating her body, she stated that she didn’t go without fighting her way through, and that is the spirit we must remember her for, she was just trying to uncover the truth.